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Pickard To Start In His Hometown

The Winnipeg-raised goalie gets the nod against the Jets

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

WINNIPEG, Manitoba--Goaltender Calvin Pickard will make his second career start in his hometown when the Colorado Avalanche closes its three-game road trip on Saturday at the Winnipeg Jets, according to head coach Jared Bednar.

Pickard, who was born in Moncton, New Brunswick, but spent most of his childhood years in Winnipeg, started Colorado's only other contest in Manitoba's capital city this year, making 26 saves in a 4-1 loss on Dec. 18.

This will be the 24-year-old netminder's second consecutive start as he stopped 40 shots on Thursday in the Avs' 2-1 loss at the Ottawa Senators.

Pickard has played the Jets three previous times in his career, including earning the win in a 23-save performance on Feb. 4 at Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche practiced Friday at MTS Iceplex, the Jets' practice facility, and had forwards Blake Comeau and Mikhail Grigorenko switch lines during 5-on-5 drills. Comeau joined a combo with Joe Colborne and John Mitchell, while Grigorenko played with J.T. Compher and Matt Nieto.

The Avs' top lines of Matt Duchene-Carl Soderbeg-Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon-Gabriel Landeskog-Rene Bourque remained unchanged from Thursday's contest.

Saturday's game will be part of a back-to-back for both Colorado and Winnipeg. The Jets host the St. Louis Blues on Friday night while the Avalanche takes on the Blues on Sunday in Denver.

It will be the fourth contest for Avs defenseman Erik Johnson since his return from a broken leg, which kept him out for 36 games from Dec. 6 to Feb. 23. His first contest back was last Saturday versus the Buffalo Sabres.

"The first game, I didn't play much, just trying to get my legs back underneath me," Johnson said following Friday's practice. "But the last two games, I've felt really good. I got my legs back, my timing back. Puck skills are coming back. I'm feeling really good. I thought it would take me some more time to jump back into midseason form, but I feel really good. I had a lot of chances, a lot of chances to get on the scoresheet. I wish that could translate into a few more wins, but so far I'm happy with my individual game."

Johnson finished the outing against the Senators with three shots on goal on six attempts, two blocked shots and 22:23 of ice time, his most minutes since before his injury on Nov. 21 at the Columbus Blue Jackets (22:50).

"I've liked his early games. I've thought in the early games, coming off the injury, he was relatively simple but effective," Bednar said after Thursday's contest. "He was up the ice and part of the play. I thought he was doing that again [Thursday]. Not as structured defensively [versus Ottawa] though for me, but I think that he's starting to eat more minutes and he's getting back to form. He's just got to make sure he's doing it in a controlled way and still being dangerous up the ice."

Winnipeg is one of the clubs that Colorado has had success against this year, as its gone 2-2-0 in the four previous games. Saturday's 5 p.m. MT matchup will be the final one between the teams this season.

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